The “Wageningse Berg” is steep. In the third glacial period, an ice tongue ran through the “Gelderse Vallei”, that pushed the soft earth forward on either side. Thus, the “Veluwemassief”, with the “Wageningse Berg”was created in the eastern part. The “Utrechtse Heuvelrug” with the “Grebbeberg” was formed in the western part. Because of the ice in the river bed, the Rhine could no longer flow northward and turned westward. When the ice melted, the earth that had been pushed away by the the ice tongue was carried off through the river, thus creating the steep walls of the “Wageningse Berg” and “Grebbeberg”.
The estate Belmonte was founded in the middle of the nineteenth century, by Thierry Juste, baron De Constant Rebecque de Villars. Around 1845, he built a resplendant country house in Italian style on the highest point of Belmonte. His father in law bought adjacent parcels of land, resulting in an estate of seventeen acres. For years, barons and baronesses lived there, in the house that came into possession of “Het Gelders Landschap” foundation in 1936.
Second World War
Twice, in 1940 during a German attack, and in 1944, during Operation Market Garden by the Allied Forces, Wageningen was the scene of serious fighting. In both cases, the estate Belmonte was hit. A report, made up after the war to establish damage to buildings, stated that there was heavy damage. At the end of the war, the estate with the country house, outbuildings and garden lay-out had been destroyed for the large part. From the house, only ruins were left, and many trees had been severely damaged.
Wageningen UR (at the time still known as Agricultural University) bought the estate in 1951 for a modest sum of money, in order to expand the botanic garden “De Dreijen”. In 1954, the restoration of Belmonte and the lay-out of the arboretum were so far advanced that the botanic garden was opened. At that time there were, apart from the original line of trees in the center, only small trees. Deciduous trees, because there were already many collections of conifers. Belmonte has only few conifers. The ideas for the lay-out and revegetation came from professor Bijlhouwer and professor Venema.
From University garden to the Belmonte Arboretum Foundation
The botanic gardens in Wageningen were no longer used for education and research, which made WageningenUR look for another solution. Together with “Het Geldersch Landschap” and the “Arboretum Stichting Wageningen”, it was decided in 2012 to establish the Belmonte Arboretum Foundation, and instruct this Foundation to make the garden self-sufficient, both in a fiancial and management aspect. As of 2017, the three ‘founding fathers’ are no longer involved in finances or management, and the Belmonte Arboretum Foundation is independent.